Team building is an aspect of office life often met with resistance. The mere mention of team building is enough to evoke images of grown adults, half-heartedly painting a mural in honour of teamwork and collaboration. When done improperly, team building becomes forced fun: imposing uncomfortable activities on the masses with no consideration for personality types, interests, and team dynamics. This form of team building is counter-intuitive, as it creates a wall between those planning the activities and those who are made to participate in them.
When a selection of new faces joined the Big Blue Bubble team this summer, we were excited to plan a team building event to bring our employees closer together, but we were faced with the challenge of planning activities that would avoid the common pitfalls of team building. Our team is comprised of very diverse individuals, each with their own idea of what a fun group outing would look like. Knowing this, we rose to the challenge of getting team building right by planning activities that fit our culture and genuinely excited all of our employees.
In the process of planning our latest team event, we discovered the true value of team building exercises. When done properly, team building can be a powerful tool in increasing office morale, facilitating collaboration, and instilling employees with a strong sense of belonging. Successful team building can also be an excellent tool in conveying an organization’s corporate culture.
Omescape, the site of our escape room challenges and a fully-stocked boardgame cafe.
Choose the Right Activity
The easiest way to deflate any enthusiasm your team may have for your team building event is to choose activities that are not compatible with your corporate culture. Big Blue Bubble’s Human Resources Director, Beverly Probst, keeps this in mind when planning team building outings: “When you plan team building events, it is critical to plan for what the majority of the team would like to do and what aligns to your culture – that ensures a successful event and money well spent.” Big Blue Bubble’s team is comprised of both introverts and extroverts, each with their own unique interests. To choose an activity that would excite everyone, we focussed on what our team shares: a love for mental challenges, a passion for boardgames, a flair for creativity, and a sense of humour.
Knowing this, Big Blue Bubble planned a full day of team-building activities that featured puzzling Escape Rooms at a boardgame cafe, as well as a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre. The Escape Rooms gave employees the chance to team up with new coworkers while providing the mental and creative challenges they love, while the baseball game gave everyone the chance to relax and share a few laughs with their coworkers. What made these activities successful was that they did not force any individuals into the spotlight, but gave everyone the chance to shine. Beverly explains how this kept both introverts and extroverts happy: “Big Blue Bubble is a team of excellent individuals, but no one wants to be put into in a situation where they have to be the center of attention. That is not us.”
One of our many victorious escape room teams.
The core purpose of a team building exercise is to encourage teamwork and familiarity among employees. This translates to increased collaboration and higher morale in the workplace. To achieve these results, it is important to allow your team to interact organically. Forcing individuals into conversations through stiff, icebreaker-style games can feel condescending and can make introverted employees uncomfortable.
At Big Blue Bubble’s team building event, employees were given the opportunity to meet new people at their own pace. Everyone was assigned Escape Room teams and stadium seats to ensure that they would be exposed to a variety of coworkers; the rest was up to them. This hands-off style led to employees interacting with unfamiliar coworkers from other departments naturally, forging new friendships along the way. Our Marketing Project Co-ordinator, Michael Hammond, appreciated this opportunity to get to know more of his coworkers: “The Escape Room was a fantastic experience that allowed me to spend time and form relationships with a lot of people I probably wouldn’t have, on top of being a really fun experience.“ Providing employees the chance to meet new coworkers in a way that feels organic helps to bring the team together as a whole, resulting in stronger team dynamics.
The Big Blue Bubble team enjoying the Jays game in our matching shirts!
Enjoy the Rewards
Large team building activities can end up costing a significant amount of time and money. However, focussing on these immediate costs is shortsighted: in the long run, the value gained from holding team building exercises far outweighs these concerns. Successful team building activities result in better teamwork, smoother interdepartmental collaboration, and higher morale in the workplace. For your business, this ultimately means increased productivity and higher-quality output, in addition to a stronger corporate culture. When your team is genuinely happy, enjoys working with others, and takes pride in their work, the results truly speak for themselves.